Thandi Klaasen...jazz icon who rose from humble background


Thandi Klaasen, the iconic South African jazz musician who died aged 86 on Sunday, from pancreatic cancer, will be given a “heroine’s farewell,“ with the South African government stepping in to support her family.

Speaking to SABC News on Monday‚ Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said: “We will be working very closely with the family to ensure that the people’s hero is laid to rest in a dignified way.”

President Jacob Zuma is among those who have paid tribute to Klassen. He said the nation had lost a leading pioneer of jazz.

We have lost one of the leading pioneers of South African jazz music and promoters of the country’s cosmopolitan culture. She was a role model to many of our young and upcoming musicians and her legacy will live on for generations to come‚” Zuma said.

President Jacob Zuma...pays tribute to Jazz pioneer
President Jacob Zuma…pays tribute to Jazz pioneer

We convey our deepest condolences to her family‚ relatives and all in the arts and culture industry. May her soul rest in peace‚” Zuma added.

Furthermore, Zuma noted that Klaasen had earned several awards and honours‚ including the National Order of the Baobab which was bestowed on her for her excellent achievement in and contribution to music.

Klaasen, who rose into stardom from a humble background – her father was a shoemaker and her mother a domestic worker – performed with US stars such as Roberta Flack and Patti LaBelle, in a career spanning more than 50 years.

Her face was permanently disfigured in an acid attack by a jealous rival when she was still a teenager. Recalling that incident later in life, Klaasen said: “Even if people in the street make you feel like you have leprosy or like you’re dirty… you must be strong”.

A memorial service in honour of Klaasen will take place on Wednesday before she is laid to rest on Friday.